The IELTS test consists of four parts: listening, reading, writing, and speaking. This 2-part series will give
- a brief overview of each part,
- common problems IELTS students have, and
- some brief solutions to each of these problems.
Looking for the writing and speaking sections? Click here for Part 2 of the IELTS Academic Overview.
IELTS Listening Overview:
The listening test has four sections. There are 10 questions in each section. The listening test lasts for a total of about 30 minutes. At the end of the test, you will have an extra ten minutes to copy your answers from your test booklet to your answer sheet.
Common Listening Problem 1: “The speaking is too fast.”
Solution: Build your vocabulary with tools like Memrise, Anki, and Quizlet and do more extensive listening to things like Luke’s English Podcast, Youtube Videos, or other topics you are interested in.
Common Problem 2: “I miss points for spelling.”
Solution: Spelling can be difficult to fix immediately but it can be improved over time. Your Dictionary’s article on teaching spelling strategies has a few good tips. Memrise is also good for memorizing spelling as it forces you to type.
Listening is usually either quite easy or quite difficult for students. Fortunately, it’s something that can get better with sustained practice.
IELTS Reading Overview:
The IELTS reading test comes directly after the speaking test (no break). It lasts for 60 minutes and there are three essays (readings). Each essay has about 13 questions for a total of 40 questions. Unlike listening, you do NOT have extra time to copy your answers to the answer sheet.
Common Problem 1: “I can’t finish on time.”
Solution: Like listening, you need to build your vocabulary. Tools like Memrise, Anki, and Quizlet can help but you should also be getting vocabulary from reading as well. Only memorizing words is not enough, you need to get used to seeing them in context. Knowing question strategies will also help a lot.
Common Problem 2: “I can’t stay focused.”
Solution: This is a surprisingly common problem. One way to help stay focused is to practice techniques like box breathing to help you relax when you’re starting to tense. Practicing proper posture like sitting up straight can also help your stamina.
For many students (and teachers!) reading is the most difficult section. 60 minutes is a long time to stay focused on answering difficult questions and it’s easy to get frustrated. Being able to stay relaxed is key. And of course, vocabulary is the key to success here.